Valuing ecosystem services

Nature is not accounted for in economic policies around the world. A better understanding of our economic reliance on ecosystems can prompt behaviour change.

What are the true economic benefits of sustainable land management and costs of land degradation?


Despite a growing number of assessments showing that ecosystem services are worth billions of dollars to national economies, most governments and businesses are not including ecosystem valuations in policy decisions.

Failure to recognise and account for the value of these goods and services in government and private sector decision-making has led to the unsustainable exploitation of ecosystems, triggering severe long-term social and economic costs which are increasingly reflected in insurance premiums, food prices, health incidents and even civil unrest.

Using economic metrics to value and account for ecosystem goods and services has the potential to show the true value of land.

This is where ELD comes in: We make the economic case for investing in sustainable land management to prevent and restore land degradation around the world. ELD highlights the economic dimension of soil and land degradation in order to provide methods for valuing land accurately and enable its efficient and sustainable use.

Recent ELD activities

  • Regreening Africa project


    The Regreening Africa project is restoring ecosystems in eight countries in Africa and improving the resilience of 500,000 households across sub-Saharan Africa. The project is a joint collaboration with ELD, World Agroforesty, the European Union, World Vision and GIZ.

    Since 2017, ELD has provided training on the 6+1 step economic approach for policy-makers and researchers, and produced a series of case studies in the partner countries of Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, and Somalia. Targeting key institutions from national research and policy sectors, ELD facilitated the joint development of economic assessments in consideration of multiple land use options.

    Learn more

  • ELD and the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) joint study shows the benefits of locally-run watershed development in India


    In collaboration with WOTR, ELD conducted a study in India's east Madhya Pradesh, titled 'Economic valuation of reducing land degradation through watershed development in east Madhya Pradesh under risks of Climate extremes'. 

    WOTR has been implementing watershed development (WSD) with climate change adaptation in eastern Madhya Pradesh for the last two decades. This region is an important case study because it is a centrally located state with the largest forest cover in India.

    The study indicates that WSD as implemented by NGOs is an economically beneficial developmental intervention for both periods of normal rainfall and extreme events. The results of the study also suggest that enabling the local community to implement WSD with climate adaptive measures and to maintain the structures constructed is economically viable.

    Learn more

  • More sustainable Mezcal in Oaxaca, Mexico (on-going)


    In cooperation with GIZ’s Project Mainstreaming of biodiversity within Mexican agriculture (GIZ IKI-IBA project) and local partners, the ELD Initiative is conducting a study on agave use for Mezcal production in three districts in Oaxaca/Mexico.   

    In the last 5 years, the demand for mezcal has led to a significant increase in agave crops in the districts of Miahuatlan, Tlacolula and Yautepec. This has led to the loss of forest cover and biodiversity, so much so that the issue has been deemed a high priority for the Oaxaca State government. 

    The objectives of the ELD Study are: 

    • To improve policy-relevant information on the value of biodiversity/ecosystem services and to demonstrate how this information can be integrated in planning and decision-making processes in order to directly support the Ministry of environment and agriculture at state and region level.  
    • To provide insights on the integration of ecosystem services in planning tools, which will inform national level decision-making processes and methods in Mexico. 

    The report will be released later in 2021.


ELD 6+1 step approach

The ELD 6+1 step approach enables users to undertake scientifically sound cost-benefit analyses to inform decision-making processes. It can be applied at different scales and scopes, with the aim to achieve a more holistic assessment of the value of different land use options (Noel and Soussan, 2010; ELD Initiative, 2013) for all stakeholders.


All ELD case studies

Since its inception in 2011, ELD has conducted numerous scientifically rigorous economic valuations of terrestrial ecosystem services which show the true costs of land degradation and the true benefits of SLM approaches.


Other topics